23andMe Shares Stance on Protecting Customers' Data

23andMe has opinions about GEDmatch’s decision to allow law enforcement to search its database. In a blog post written by 23andMe’s Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Kathy Hibbs, the company discusses the problems it sees with GEDmatch and clarifies its own stance on protecting customers’ data.

The 23andMe blog post starts with: “A Florida judge recently issued a warrant granting law enforcement access to search the database of GEDmatch, a small publicly accessible DNA and genealogy research site. Allowing law enforcement access to GEDmatch’s nearly one million users should trouble anyone who values people’s right to privacy”.

23andMe goes on to say that they find the situation “troubling”. They point to reporting by The New York Times which states that GEDmatch opened up its database to law enforcement within 24 hours of the judge’s decision. As such, 23andMe feels that based on the timing, it does not appear that GEDmatch exhausted all legal avenues to challenge the warrant.

Customers of 23andMe should know that in their 13 year history, they have never turned over any customer data to law enforcement or any other government agency. Protecting the security and privacy of their customers’ information is at the core of what they do as a business.

23andMe was the first consumer genetics company to openly publish a Transparency Report, which details the number of government requests they have received for customer data. As of November 7, 2019, 23andMe has received seven requests for data from 10 of their 10 million customers and they have successfully challenged each one.

One purpose of 23andMe’s blog post was to warn their customers about uploading their genetic data to third-party, public websites, like GEDmatch. Another purpose was to emphasize that in the United States, the Fourth Amendment is meant to protect people’s right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Related Articles on FamilyTree.com:

GEDMatch Updated its Privacy Policy

Department of Justice Made Rules About Forensic Genetic Genealogy

23andMe’s Ancestry Service Update Adds Diversity

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